Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Passive Aggressive
Right, so this blog was originally going to be about all the neat stuff I was learning in grad school, plus, you know, some of that incidental stuff that is my life. Hence the title (see above.) It was a good idea. I mean, while I was in Japan, I read Pinker's The Language Instinct for fun, and kept having flashbacks to my beloved linguistics class at Grinnell, wishing I had gotten to take Psych of Language and cognitive psych and all that other good stuff that I never found time for. (Oh, and Japanese history, but that's kind of to the side at the moment.) I actually underlined passages in Pinker, and quoted them to my Grinnell friends via the Plans community. I ran a little poll based on one of those passages to see if I could duplicate the results he mentioned. If I could find this much impetus and excitement from a book I was reading for fun, surely the knowledge grad school would reveal unto me would be that much better, right?

Not exactly. Turns out, Pinker wrote the best book out there seven years ago, and the program I'm in is not exactly what I thought it was going to be, so I spend far, far more time learning about teaching methods for teaching a subject I have no intention of teaching than I do learning about the cognitive processes of the mind with regards to language. The result is that I am becoming rather passive agressive in my approach to homework. It's like a return to high school, down to hearing my mother's voice telling me that by not doing my homework, I hurt no one but myself, not the teacher, not the class. Somehow, I don't think this is the attitude my program is trying to inspire towards those in the teaching profession. It doesn't help that I like all the instructors personally, I just don't like the classes.

My experience this year reminds me of a Joel On Software article Will had me read last year, on the real reason Mac and PC users revile each other's systems so much. It boils down to, not a huge advantage of one over the other, but rather a lot of very little differences in interface that a computer user doesn't usually even notice until they're suddenly gone or different. The sum of the little bits makes for the overall impression of convenience, and if any of those little bits change, suddenly, we're not happy. Overall, computers all do the same things, regardless of OS, just as, overall, every day of a person's average life is about the same. But if a bunch of little bitty things start to bug us, we build up a great deal of antipathy towards that type of computer, or grad program, or job, or city, or whatever. So the end result is that I may be learning some interesting stuff right now, but the little things like inconvenient class times that make it impossible to do anything more rewarding in the evenings, lots of focus on teaching when I want to focus on the thought processes the teaching is impacting, an obsession with having everyone learn to write a perfect lesson plan, etc., make for me being rather displeased with my first year of grad school. I've heard a lot of people don't like their first year, and I hold out hope for next semester, when there is only one non-linguistics class I have to take. I hope I like my linguistics MA better than this one.

Pity party finished.

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